Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

Vulnerable: North-South

Dealer: East


8 7 4

Q 10 8 4

K Q 9

A Q 5


Q 6 5 3 2

K 7


9 7 4 3 2


A 10

A 6 5

5 3 2

K J 10 8 6


K J 9

J 9 3 2

A J 10 8 6 4


South West North East
1 1 Dbl. Pass
3 Pass 4 Pass
4 All pass

Opening Lead: Spade three

“If only a single rose is left,

Why should the summer pine?

A blade of grass in a rocky cleft;

A single star to shine.”

— George Barlow

Unless there is no other obvious choice, I am not a big fan of singleton opening leads, although plenty of players swear by them. It seems to me that all too often they set up tricks for declarer, or else partner cannot get the lead to give me my ruff. Sometimes, even when they should work, something else goes wrong.

Today’s deal comes from a recent world championship in Portugal. North’s double of one spade showed at least four hearts along with some measure of diamond support. When his partner jumped to three hearts, he had hopes of a slam, but South was not interested.

At one table West, not unreasonably, led his singleton diamond. Declarer won in the dummy and played a heart. East, who could read the lead as a singleton and knew from the bidding that his partner held only two trumps, went in with the ace to give his partner a diamond ruff. Good idea, but wrong hand!

At another table West began with a spade to East’s ace, and a spade was returned. The defense might seem worse placed now, but appearances are deceptive. Declarer won the spade king, and crossed to dummy with a diamond to discard a spade on the club ace. He now played a trump. West won the king and played a low spade for East to ruff with the heart ace. A diamond back allowed West to score his ruff after all, so four hearts went one down.


South holds:

Q 6 5 3 2
K 7
9 7 4 3 2


South West North East
1 1 Pass
1 Pass 1 NT Pass
ANSWER: Sometimes one has to settle for the best bid possible (which means passing now), not the best possible bid. If one spade was forcing, then your partner will surely interpret two clubs as a cue-bid, after which the sky may be the limit and not in a good way. If you are happy that because one spade was invitational, then two clubs is natural, bid it, but don’t say I didn’t warn you!


For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog. Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2011. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


jim2August 17th, 2011 at 1:03 pm

On the bidding quiz, by all means let us Pass!

This is one of the ugliest and most dangerous rebid situations I have ever seen at the one level!

North and West have shown no extra stength so, looking at only 5 HCPs, East must have points but bid no suit nor made a negative double. Conclusion: East has diamonds behind partner and may have intended to convert a West balancing double to penalty.

Partner does not like my spades and, quite frankly, neither do I, but the opponents probably would. Hence, no spade rebid just because I hold 5 of them. At two spades, I can already feel the club ruffs on my right and the hearts back through the K7.

For all I know, North is J J10xx AQxxx KQx.

And West is K108x AQx x AJ10xx

And East A9x xxxx KJ109xx –

Better for North to go down at 1N undoubled than any other contract doubled. Also, if West doubles now, East may feel compelled to take it out.

Bobby WolffAugust 17th, 2011 at 2:58 pm

Hi Jim2,

When writing a bridge column, an important purpose (perhaps most) is to entertain first and teach secondarily. In order to get that done, thought provoking, rather than casual joy, should lead to solid usable caveats rather than mainly frustration, especially in application.

This particular BWTA possibly violated that principle, but certainly in our back and forth comments, no holds are barred, allowing us to speak our truths, at least as we both see it.

Although, in keeping with the above rule, no vulnerability or whether we are playing matchpoints, IMPs or rubber bridge is mentioned, making our opinions less on point, but still nevertheless possibly worth giving.

There are many shapes and sizes when it comes to excellent bridge players, not to mention world class, and at least in my view one of the more important categories is what is alluded to in the above answer, the discussion of the best result possible BRP (taking in mind the practicality of what might happen if a misunderstanding occurs) and the best possible result BPR (simply getting to the right contract).

At most levels of play, which probably includes at least 99% of our readers, the BRP should be the goal and our advice, coupled with your sound agreement, should win the day in making our readers aware of the bridge minefield that particular problem may be presenting.

However, at least to me, since when South is presented with his second bidding turn, 2 clubs as a final contract palpably stands out as the best contract (and may be by several tricks) so, at a high intellectual bridge level, he MUST be allowed to seek it.

Therefore, and in conclusion, (since 1 spade is not forcing and should always just be construed as an attempted alternate final strain) 2 clubs (especially since so many popular bidding systems include “short clubs” as an opening bid), should be played by that partnership as almost certainly the final resting spot. If South had greater aspirations he should jump the bidding to whatever he thought best (3 spades, 3 diamonds, 3NT, 3 hearts, even 4 spades with perhaps QJ109xxx, x, Kx, AQx) and also have bids of 2 hearts, 2 diamonds, and 2 spades as contract improving efforts with, of course a bid of 2NT merely an invitation in NT.

Are the above comments necessary for entertainment? Definitely not and out of place in our column, but man to man between us, certainly, and very applicable to an aspiring partnership.

Ever onward, ever upward!

jim2August 17th, 2011 at 4:13 pm

I, personally and speaking as an admitted non-expert, would be far more comfortable with bidding two clubs after passing at the current juncture and then West re-opening/balancing with Double and East made a penalty Pass.

The South hand is a horror once North has bid diamonds and not raised spades, especially if East has diamonds and some points. I have been playing bridge since 1959 and only tempo discipline here would keep me from making one of the fastest passes I have ever made!

Bobby WolffAugust 17th, 2011 at 5:48 pm

Hi Jim2,

You have made a very firm point about quickly passing before the penalty doubles starts. to paraphrase it, “No double, no trouble”.

Where I diagree is that after this bidding, while holding the black 5-5 I would expect to make 2 clubs doubled, perhaps even with an overtrick, (strongly considering partner’s 1NT rebid) before I even saw the dummy. Partner figures to average about 3 1/4 clubs since with only a doubleton club and with obvious known shortage in spades he should shy away from rebidding NT unless he had extra strength for his overcall.

Another way of explaining it is that with a likely misfit (short spades) partner should not opt to play NT without at least some extra values (or a good club holding) but rather pass 1 spade or make some other bid.